by Jeff VanderMeer
Jeff VanderMeer’s offering to The Solaris Book of New Fantasy is about as opposite from the previous story (Hal Duncan’s The Prince of End Times) as can be. VanderMeer takes a refreshing approach to Fantasy, setting himself apart from the other stories included in the anthology. Though perhaps refreshing is the wrong word, because VanderMeer, essentially brings back the essence of Fantasy, serving us a trio of thoughtful, accessible and charming Fables.
Each of the three mini-stories follows a King among animals. Whether VanderMeer is telling the tale of the self-professed, broken-english-speaking King of the Bears, the mournful, did-it-really-happen death of The King of Cats, or the combative, clever battle for the title of King of Birds he manages to bring back memories of a childhood spent reading the tales of Aesop. The best part about it all is that he’s able to craft these fun, intelligent stories in less pages than it takes many authors to construct a single scene.
In a day and age where grit, sex and urban settings sell, it’s nice to see VanderMeer take a step back to revisit the roots of storytelling. You can be damn sure that I’ll be reading the tale of Masha and her adventure with the King of the Bears.